Heed the golden rule of gambling

Dear Mark,
If there was one golden rule of gambling you would give to first-time players, what would it be? Bob H.

The same golden rule that Peter Lynch, the legendary stock picker and former fund manager of Fidelity Magellan, believes; "Never invest money you can't afford to lose." The same holds true in gambling. Never gamble above your means or with money you can't afford to lose.

Dear Mark,
I have read that you should always play the maximum amount of coins when playing the slot machines. I have a friend who argues that you will hit jackpots more often if you play only one coin at a time, then bet more. In the long run, does it make any difference at all how many coins I play at a time? Clyde B.

The idea behind your friend's theory is that you will save money "priming" the machine for a big jackpot. Till I'm blue in the face, this won't happen. All pulls are random, Clyde, and the number of coins played has absolutely no effect on determining when or what type of winning symbols will appear on the machine.

For almost all multiple-pay and multiple-play machines, the maximum coin line tends to yield a better percentage payback. Note on the paytable the proportional difference in the size of your payoff. Example: One coin inserted pays 500 coins, two coins; 1000 coins, three coins; 4000 returned. Paydirt when three coins are played.

If you can afford to play the maximum coin amount, do so. If you cannot, switch to a lower denomination machine.

Dear Mark,
Recently I was on a blackjack game minding my own business and as you say "playing with my hard-earned money," when out of the blue an individual standing behind me (he wasn't playing, just watching) decided he would instruct me on how to play each and every hand. How would you have handled this annoyance? Ronnie G.

The patron you described is called a kibitzer: A spectator at a game who makes unsolicited comments, unwanted advice and drives everyone bonkers. Solution: Call over the pit boss and explain your predicament. He or she will have a very sympathetic ear since the nuisance is not gambling.

Dear Mark,
Over the years I have been an avid keno player. Now after reading your comments many times about keno, I have refrained from playing and limit my play to the many other games and bets you recommend. Coincidentally, I seem to be winning more. Though I have never hit a keno ticket solid, my favorite tickets in the past were a 5-spot, 7-spot, 8-spot and a 9-spot. What were the odds of me hitting one of those tickets? Alice C.

In past articles, Alice, I have listed the astronomical odds of some keno tickets that need calculators using exponential notations to figure. Below I'll list the probability of hitting the smaller tickets solid.

1/1 One in 4
2/2 One in 16
3/3 One in 72
4/4 One in 326
5/5 One in 1,550
6/6 One in 7,752
7/7 One in 40,979
8/8 One in 230,114
9/9 One in 1,380,687
10/10 One in 8,911,711

And what will the average casino pay you for hitting a solid 10? A $2 wager returns a measly $45,000 in Atlantic City and $100,000 in Nevada. Chump change considering your chances are almost nine million to one. Doesn't the lottery start to sound good about now?